Originally from the northwestern state of Jalisco, Mexico, this world known beverage is the first distilled and commercially produced alcohol from North America. The plant it is distilled from is the blue agave, a plant from Jalisco that produces sugar. This beverage has a history that expands beyond pre-Hispanic times, reaching as far back into the days of the Aztecs, when they fermented sap from the local blue agave plants, which was a long time before any Spanish settlers came (before 1521). When they did come, the brandy they had brought ran out, and so they began to distil the sap of the agave plant, and made tequila. In 1947, the qualifications tequila had to meet were written, and it is still being constantly updated to this day.
TOP SHELF TEQUILA IS MADE OF 100% BLUE AGAVE, SO MAKE SURE YOU LOOK FOR THAT.
HOW IT’S MADE
Daniel Osuna and Alfonso Pelayo Osuna, professional tequila distillers, say there is a precise process for tequila to be made. The first step is to cultivate and grow the agave plant for seven to eight years, and then cut the spines off and send the piñas to the distillery. After this, there are four more steps to be completed in the production process.
1. Roast the piñas in the oven. This step is necessary because it changes the starches in the piñas into sugars that can be fermented, and it also softens the texture of the piñas so that the juice can be extracted.
2. Extract the sugar, which is where the largest amount of sugar that is in the agave is extracted.
3. Ferment the sugar. This is by far the most important step in the process because it lets the distillers get the characteristics they want for the tequila. The sugar is isolated so that it can change to alcohol and so pleasant aromas are allowed to appear.
4. Distil the product. This is the final step in the process, and it is when the tequila is refined so the perfect flavor and aroma can come out. This is done in oak barrels. The alcohol absorbs the oak, letting the tequila acquire a perfect body, softness, and texture.
There are two types of tequila: 100% blue agave, mixto (mixed). While 100% blue agave is pure agave, Mixto has to have at least 51% blue agave, and the rest of it comes from cane sugar. The other ingredients usually found in tequila mixto are: glycerin, caramel, oak extract flavoring, and sugar based syrup. 100% blue agave needs to be made in Jalisco, but tequila mixto does not. You will know if it’s 100% blue agave because it will say “Tequila 100% de agave”, or “Tequila 100% puro de agave” on the side of the bottle. If it only says tequila on the bottle, it is most likely mixed.
The two classifications have five sub-classifications. They are:
This is tequila in its purest possible form. It is usually not aged, so you can really taste the true flavors, sweetness, and intensity.
This tequila is usually mixed, and has added color and flavor. It is usually cheap and used at bars for mixing with other drinks. There are exceptions, though. For example, when silver tequila gets mixed with a reposado and/or añejo tequila. It is still considered 100% blue agave in this form.
This type is known as an aged or rested tequila. Reposado is aged in wooden barrels or storage tanks from a time period that lasts anywhere between 2 to 11 months. The color is usually gold and tastes like agave and wood. Sometimes it is aged in a barrel that had something else in it beforehand, like wine or whiskey, and it acquires those tastes also.
This tequila is known as extra aged because it is aged for at least a year. The color of it is usually amber and is more smooth, dark, and complex than any of the other sub-groups of tequila.
This tequila is ultra aged, due to the fact it is aged for three or more years. The extra age gives it a very dark color, and it’s hard to tell the flavor apart from other aged spirits of high quality. It is usually diluted with distilled water after the aging process is over.